Thursday, June 10, 2010

Customer Service Fail

Does this look like I'm having fun? This is a close up of my lower legs. The red spots are not freckles: they are bed bug bites. The ankles and backs of my legs are ten times worse than the fronts.

Last week, I attended the Magazines Canada annual conference, and Professional Writers Association Annual Meeting. I stayed at what is supposed to be a very nice hotel, mainly on the recommendation of people who stayed there last year.

By Friday morning, I was out in these welts that I thought at first was a reaction to the soap. Problem was, the welts ended where the pyjamas began, and are concentrated on my lower legs, ankles and feet.

A week later, they are gradually diminishing, but I'm surviving on Benadryl and Calamine lotion. Two pharmacists have confirmed the marks as bed bug bites. I have to let them run their course and heal. In the meantime, the itch is making me crazy.

I contacted the hotel and received what is most assuredly a form response. I wasn't asking for money back. I wasn't asking for special consideration. I wasn't asking for anything at all. I was reporting a problem that they need to rectify so that the next person who stays in that room doesn't get eaten alive.

In part, here's what the response was:
"I am obviously concerned that you are feeling unwell as a result of a possible insect bite, however at the same time I have to also state that this skin irritation can be a result of many things such as,  allergies to the soap used in our laundry process to insect bites as a result of being out doors.  I would also like to inform you that at this time the Hotel has had zero feedback in relation to other guests who have stayed in the same room as you and from other guests."
The hotel also stated that they have "a comprehensive set of room inspections and cleaning  procedures are in place to reduce the likelihood of this taking place.  Daily inspections of all mattress, head boards and bedding are taken and on a monthly basis we follow an aggressive Pest Control Program in each room."
Funny thing is, there's a sign beside the bed advising that the sheets are only changed every other day, and I happened to see the maid making up one of the rooms. She was in and out pretty quickly, and I didn't see any comprehensive inspection taking place. If you only change the sheets every other day, it's impossible to inspect the mattress daily. Besides, if there hadn't been issues in the past, they wouldn't have such a rapid e-mail response ready, would there?

My out doors interactions consisted of walking across the road to the conference centre, or down the road to the Eaton Centre and the PWAC after party. If I was reacting to the soap, it should be all over, and not just areas not covered by pyjamas. I'm pretty thorough in my scrubbing. If you google bed bug bites, I have all the characteristics of them. If you google bed bugs, Toronto, there are reported infestations all around the hotel.

In spite of the best efforts, sometimes things like bed bugs happen. We've all had bad experiences in a hotel, a restaurant, a store...but how many of us take the time to talk to the place in question? I was trying to help the next guest in that room by reporting my experience. I was expecting the hotel to react, not insult me and my intelligence with what was clearly a template response.

How a company responds to a customer complaint tells a lot about the company's culture. A simple "I'm sorry" goes a long way to mitigate and defuse a bad customer service experience. I understand the sensitive nature of my complaint-it's why I took the time to advise them in the first place. Adding insult to itchy injury escalated the situation. It's common lore in business that a customer will tell 5 people about a positive experience, and 10 about a negative one. When I received the response from the hotel manager, here's me, telling people about a negative experience.

I fired off a response after pondering it for a couple of days. I've suggested that if they are truly confident in that room's cleanliness, that they spend a few nights sleeping in it. They might want to stock up on Calamine lotion and Benadryl first though, and I wouldn't recommend sleeping nude. Just sayin'. You could end up looking like this all over your body.

And no, I'm not going to name the establishment publicly. I'm not that stupid. Itchy and irritated, yes, but not stupid.

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